Jazz Music and culture has a rich history, with its roots beginning in the United States. Jazz is known as an incredibly passionate music that touches people in different ways through the variety of styles within the genre. One type of band, which also originates back to the beginning of this music movement, is called the ‘spasm band’. Ever heard of it? If not, you may have heard it referred to as other such names as a jug or skiffle band.
First, let me explain what a spasm band is. The term ‘spasm band’ was coined back in 1895, when a band of seven boys, ages twelve to fifteen, appeared in New Orleans (this band, considered by some to be the first jazz group, was named “Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band”). This street-performing band plays a variety of old-time jazz, Dixieland, skiffle or jug band music with improvised instruments created out of found objects and is often made up of children. Popular instruments used in these types of bands included washtub basses, jugs, washboards, spoons, harmonicas, one string fiddles, horns, bells, pipes and kazoos, which I’m sure many of us played with as children. Now do you feel more familiar with this type of music?
There are quite a few popular jazz bands you may be familiar with that are known for their ‘spasm’ style. I will go over a few of them here.
The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band
Though “The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band,” hailing from Oxford, England, now incorporates seven pieces in their jazz band, they originally began as a traditional three-piece spasm band that played jazz and skiffle music on homemade banjos, ukuleles, and washboards. Though they have upgraded their instrument playing and moved a bit away from skiffle, “The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band” still delivers a truly awesome jazz experience.
The End Times Spasm Band
This fun, young band from Indiana have only been around since 2009 but have already made their mark in the jazz world. “The End Times Spasm Band” features four band mates that play a variety of instruments, including the jazz guitar, ukulele, banjo, upright bass and washboard. Because of the inclusion of such makeshift instruments of the ukulele and washboard, this band has the right to call themselves a spasm band, with a twist of lime.
The Nihilist Spasm Band
“The Nihilist Spasm Band,” brought to you from London, Ontario, has been around since 1965, so you may be a bit more familiar with their music. Their sound is described as completely unique, as not only do they make their own instruments, but they also completely freely improvise (which is why they are also sometimes referred to as a noise band). “The Nihilist Spasm Band” was formed by a group of guys who simply enjoyed music and wanted to play in a band. If you wish to see them live, you can always catch them a jazz club by the name of The Forest City Gallery in London, Ontario, where they have played most Monday nights for the past 45 years.
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